This time of year can be beautiful. Crisp air. Leaves changing color. Family get-togethers. Christmas music piping through store speakers. It puts you in a good mood. The down side to this time of year for the person looking for work, is that this time of year basically brings hiring down to a trickle.
When I was a recruiter, I almost never had a request for a new position come across my desk this time of year. Any new openings were replacements for someone who left the company. On top of that, during the weeks around the holidays, managers would be unavailable for interviews. As a recruiter it was nice to get some time to breathe, but as someone who is asking Santa for a new job, this “breather” stinks. Fewer job openings, means lower chances. That’s why it’s crucial to use this time as wisely as possible.
Don't Get Down About Things
It’s easy to fall into a spiral of negative emotions when your prospects appear to dwindle. We start to wonder, “Will I ever get an offer?” or “What’s wrong with me, why doesn’t anyone call?”
Remember, it’s not you, it’s the season. This is to be expected.
As soon as the clients I work with start to express these self-doubts, I tell them to manage the things that are within their control and look for ways to work around the things they don’t have the power to change. We should all print off the Serenity Prayer and tape it to our bathroom mirror to remind us in the morning how our mindset should be during times of trial and tribulation.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.
So, when new job openings aren’t forthcoming on your job board of preference, work more on other avenues to improve your chances of landing a job as quickly as possible.
Focus on Your Marketing Message
Take a hard look at your resume and cover letter. Make sure it’s conveying how you are going to be an asset to your next employer. I can attest to the fact that most candidates don’t do this well.
Unfortunately, for a lot of us who are looking for a new job, the cover letter has been relegated to the status of “after thought.” So many of them read as if they are something the writer copied and pasted from a book they bought 20 years ago from Barnes and Noble. It’s dry, doesn’t give me their story or show me their passion for their career, and it doesn’t motivate a recruiter or hiring manager to call you so they can talk to you further. While it’s true that cover letters aren’t mandatory to apply for a job, a quality one sets you apart from everyone else. So, you ought to make it count. If reading your cover letter and it doesn’t make you excited about you, how on earth do you think it’s going to make the recipient excited about you?
When you sit down to work on your cover letter, make sure you demonstrate why you’re excited about the field you’re in and the company to which you’re applying. Give the reader your key selling points. What makes you the best candidate to fill their role? How are you going to meet their needs?
Don’t think you can fit all this into one page? Trust me, you can. You’d be surprised at what all you’re able to put into a couple of paragraphs and some bullet points. You’ll even have space to sign your name!
Once you have a solid skeleton to your cover letter, turn to your resume. More than half the resumes I’ve read in my lifetime absolutely sucked. Some of them looked like the writer spent no more than five minutes writing it. I’m sure yours isn’t that bad, but it could probably use some work if you’re not getting the response rate you’d like. Most of the time this happens for one of two reasons (and sometimes both). Either it doesn’t look good or it’s a poor read. Both reasons can kill your chances of getting an interview, which is the document’s main purpose.
Let’s talk about the look first. You want your resume to be distinctive and professional looking. After all, this is your personal brochure. Think about all the times you’ve traveled somewhere and find yourself in front of a rack of brochures in the hotel lobby, looking for things to do while you’re in town. What are the first ones you grab? I’m betting they are the ones that have something interesting on their cover. A picture of something that looks fun or exciting, a unique title, or an eye-catching color.
So many job seekers just don’t realize how important the look of a resume is. It may seem a little superficial, but if a resume doesn’t look nice, it decreases the chance of it getting read dramatically. Don’t be like the rest of your competitors, be better than them by paying attention to the details of how it looks. In the realtor’s language, give it some “curb appeal.”
Now for the content. Make sure you’re telling the reader about your accomplishments and not just your job duties. That’s the most common mistake made in the resume. How you describe your time at Acme, Inc. shouldn’t read like the bullet points in a job description. Instead, it should inform the reader about how you contributed to the betterment of Acme, Inc. It should show the projects you completed, the ways you saved the company time or money, how you increased revenue, and so forth.
Also, recruiters and hiring managers don’t want to know what your career objective is. They want to know about you and what you can do for them. A professional summary is a great way to help the them envision someone with your background on their team. With that in mind, really give it some thought and always keep the audience in mind.
Finally, don’t just emphasize your technical skills, also give the reader of your resume all the soft skills that you can bring to the organization. Often, these are more important. Are you great at bringing a team together? Can you motivate or persuade? Do you manage time well? If so, list these skills in your skills section and then provide examples in the rest of your resume.
Get Out and About
This is the ideal time to fit some networking into your schedule. If there’s not many jobs to apply to, what else can you do with your time? Sure, you could watch TV, play video games, or scroll through social media, but are these really adding value to your life?
Reach out to former colleagues and bosses and reconnect with them. Use LinkedIn and Shapr to expand your network further. Join Meetup and Eventbrite to learn about new events happening in the area where you can meet others with similar interests.
Networking gives you a couple of benefits. First, you are meeting and making relationships with people who either work for a company that’s hiring, or may know someone who is looking for a person with your background. It may not give you immediate results, but the more people who get to know and like you, the more likely you’ll get referred to a great opportunity when one comes up. Secondly, it gets you out of the house.
As much as you may love your home, you need to get out once in a while and socialize with people outside your human or pet family. At a certain point, when you’re between jobs, your home starts to feel like a prison. It’s not healthy for you, mentally, to stay confined. So, grab a spoon and start digging your tunnel to escape and meet new people.
When I suggest this to clients, I get a lot of pushback. “I’ve tried that and it never works.” I always respond, “Not with that attitude, it won’t.” You would be amazed at how willing people are to help if you know how to ask them. The key is not to make your meeting with other people all about you. Be interested in them, their interests, their personal story, and their career. When you’re interested in them, they will be interested in you.
After meeting someone new for the first time, stay in touch. This is where a lot of us fall short. We want instant results, but that rarely happens. If your approach to networking is “one and done,” you’ll be disappointed with the results. Instead, keep an ongoing conversation with your connections. Just make sure you don’t become a pest about it. Every couple of weeks is sufficient to keep you in their mind. Share an article you read, mention some other networking event you plan to attend, or give them a funny joke. The simple fact that you’re staying in contact is what’s important.
There you have it. Three things you can do during the “end of the year lull” you’re experiencing right now. Stay positive, make sure your marketing message is on point, and make friends. Hopefully you’ll snag a new job before the year ends. If that doesn’t happen, however, at least you’ll be ready when the hiring picks up!